National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Baptism of Clovis Master of Saint Giles (painter)
Franco-Flemish, active c. 1500
The Baptism of Clovis, c. 1500
oil on panel
painted surface: 61.5 x 45.5 cm (24 3/16 x 17 15/16 in.) overall (panel): 63.3 x 46.7 cm (24 15/16 x 18 3/8 in.) framed: 78.1 x 62 x 5.7 cm (30 3/4 x 24 7/16 x 2 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: The Netherlands and France in the 1500s
Object 1 of 8

Clovis (d. 511) was the founder of the Merovingian dynasty and the first Christian king of France. The setting for his baptism can be recognized as Sainte-Chapelle, the royal chapel on the Ile-de-la-Cité in Paris. Among the witnesses is his wife, Clothilde, who was largely responsible for his conversion. In the companion work, Episodes from the Life of a Bishop Saint, a bishop, perhaps Saint Remy, stands next to the cathedral of Notre-Dame. Because they refer specifically to Paris and the French royal line, these two panels (and several others now in London, including one of Saint Giles for which the artist is named) were probably once part of a single large altarpiece commissioned by someone connected to the French court. Their imagery underscores what the French monarchy considered to be its special relationship to God.

The companion work with the scene at Notre-Dame was painted, at least in part, by workshop assistants. Whether the master artist himself was a French painter trained in the north or a northerner who emigrated to France, his style has the detail and precision of Netherlandish painting. His assistants, on the other hand, display the simplified and more solid forms of French art. Compare, for example, the limestone blocks, which are textured and carefully differentiated in the baptism scene but which have a smoother, more uniform look in the other painting. The assistants tended to outline features and to contrast colors and shapes more abruptly.

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